Thursday, 20 July 2017

Normal Service

Retford  0  Hallam  3

Friendly

I think it was the point where I sat down with a pint in hand at the Babworth Sports & Social Club, that I realised normal service had resumed.

My words to Steve were to that effect, the terrible twosome were back on the road again for another season, a season that will no doubt be blighted by occupational hazards such as bad weather, re-arrangements, road closures and re-locations, but on the positive side, we should get some football in, some new grounds, and probably the odd beer or two.

I guess as well when we walked into the Babworth Lane home of Retford for the first midweek game of the new season,  and were greeted with a politically incorrect personal insult by a fellow blogger and local non-league enthusiast, it struck us that we were back on a ten month long adventure, of personal insults and political incorrectness!

Choo Choo
 This little jaunt entered the diary a couple of months back once Retford declared their intentions to relocate from the shared home of Retford United, to the ground previously used by BRSA Retford and Retford Rail amongst others.

Retford are a relatively new club, formed in 2015 and to be fair, when they first appeared on the map, for all intents and purposes, many of us assumed they were a pseudo reserve side to the aforementioned United. However, over the course of time it became clear that wasn’t the case, and once the move was announced, any possible remaining suggestions that they had a connection, were removed.  

For tonight’s friendly, we chose to partake in a pint in the Club which sits on the opposite side of the flyover to the ground. Steve had plenty of tales to tell about his recent trip to Sweden and a visit to see a team called Grebo. I was not so exotic, Dodworth, Rugby and Welling do not compare, but I suspect my beer was somewhat cheaper than he was paying in Scandinavia!

No Choo Choo
So what does Babworth Road look like? It sits alongside the East Coast Mainline so trains are aplenty, while the main road into the centre of Retford rises behind the goal. On the opposite side of the ground to the railway is a huge educational building that I seem to think used to be called a school back in the day.

Furniture wise, it’s a mixture of a fixed barrier and a rope, while the dressing rooms located behind the top goal are nearing completion having been built from scratch. No cover or seats, or indeed floodlights but in time I suspect they will start to appear. An awful lot of hard work has gone on to get the ground in shape, and all credit to the club for what they have achieved.

Views Towards The Flyover
They had a burger van, belonging to the Retford centre forward, however it could only operate a limited number of appliances at a time or it tripped out. Burgers were fine, but you couldn’t have chips, you could have a cold drink, but the kettle wouldn’t work. I daren’t think what might have happened if they’d needed to put the light on!  

We did chat to a Retford official, he was very friendly and informative, but not only that, with ten minutes to go he wandered around the ground to find us with complimentary cups of tea. What a very nice gesture, these things do leave a lasting impression.

As for the game, Hallam were always the better side, and having taken a first half lead, they scored a further two goals in the second period to record a comfortable victory. It was no slight on Retford though because higher league Hallam will be one of the sides looking for promotion this season.

For some reason the referee only appeared to play 40 minutes each way, maybe due to the gloomy evening and the reducing light, but time flew anyway, it always does when you are trading insults!

The Retford official invited us back for a game later in the season, and I suspect we’ll take him up on that offer. Besides, there are not many football grounds you can walk into and have your sexuality questioned in such a public manner.


But to be fair, we wouldn’t have it any other way!

A Work In Progress

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The 30 Year Itch

Welling United  0  Charlton Athletic  3

Friendly

It was probably around 1986 when my curiosity developed towards Welling United Football Club.

I was given a programme from a game against Fareham Town and for whatever reason it struck a chord. It was also the era of the old Non-League Grounds publications, and when I saw a photo of the Park View Road ground, I liked what I saw, it was a traditional football ground, in an era when such beauties were starting to go by the wayside, notably inside the confines of the M25.

I’ve never actually seen them play though until today. I did once turn up one night at Ilkeston Town for an FA Trophy game just after it had been postponed, while on the couple of occasions they played at Alfreton Town in the Conference National, I was clearly somewhere else!

The Fabulous Main Stand

Visiting Park View Road has been on my agenda for a long time, but being a man of the completist variety, Welling United have never been in a league that I try to crack the champagne corks over. Today’s visit was not the original plan either, some weeks ago, before the pre-season schedules had been finalised, I booked some very cheap rail tickets to London, and the hope was to get to one of the remaining Football League grounds I needed to visit.

As it turned out Fulham were not playing, and Charlton Athletic were away, at Welling United. Immediately that fixture stood out, the chance to visit had arisen, so the planning started. It was relatively straightforward in the sense that the Euston bound train from Birmingham meant I was having a beer in Borough Market by 11am, and this meant the regular trains from London Bridge to Welling were a mere five minute walk away.

Borough was a busy place, traders were kept busy as curious onlookers meandered. Not so long ago this was a scene of devastation, but normal service looks to have returned very quickly as we refuse to allow the extremists to change our way of life.

The Park View Road End
A few scoops later and it was on the train to Welling, just a short 25 minute journey into Kent through Lewisham, Blackheath and Eltham, before disembarking the train onto the busy High Street. Charlton fans were already in the pubs as a precautionary Police presence patrolled the area. I chose to enter the ground and it was there that I soon met Peter Mason, who ran the clubs programme shop. We chewed the fat for a good half hour as he gave me some background on the club, and I browsed his wares. Peter was a hugely friendly and enthusiastic chap, so if you do ever visit Park View Road, look him up. If you are reading this Peter, thank you, and I won’t forget….!

What a superb ground, in my eyes anyway. You can sense the history by looking across it, and from my vantage point on the terraces behind the goal, you had great views across an expanse that not only Welling United call home, so do Erith & Belvedere, and this is where it gets a bit strange!

One side of the ground contains the old seated stand that is something of an iconic structure, with the social club and offices situated behind it. Behind both goals are open terraces, but then the opposite side is all about Erith & Belvedere. The social club, the tea bar and the stand are all very clearly belonging to them. So we have a non-league ground with two separate social clubs, and catering facilities, that are clearly defined and serve to support themselves. Bizarrely as well, the two teams emerged from either side of the ground, I don’t know whether that is normal or just the plan for today?

The Erith & Belvedere Side
Erith were clearly not wanting to miss out on the windfall nearly 1,500 spectators would bring so they had taken the decision to open up today, and to be fair, looking at the queues for both bars, it was probably a good job they did. I had a pint in each for the sake of keeping the peace!

But, quirks aside, it really is a fine venue, unspoiled by the power of the developer and the Atcost. I can imagine on that cold December Saturday with the light fading, when an unsuspecting Football League side pitches up for an FA Cup tie, with a full house tight to the pitch, it can be quite an atmosphere. Those days have gone before, and no doubt under new ownership, the hope is that those days will return.

A recent three season spell in the Conference National has caused some financial hardship, and being a small fish in a big pond as was, it has and will take time to recover. But hope springs eternal as they prepare for another season in Conference South.

The Far End
Welling played well, but the strong Charlton side had the finishing power. Two first half goals in front of a large travelling support set the tone, and then a third goal came with just three minutes remaining. It was a good workout for both sides, and in fairness to Charlton they send a strong side to Park View Road every season for what is now a traditional curtain raiser.

I had no time to hang around at the final whistle, and I just made the 5.03 back to London Bridge, which allowed me some chill time in All Bar One at Euston, and a moment to reflect on the day. It had been great, Park View Road did not disappoint and was worth the very long wait.

The journey back was an epic one, I finally disembarked the bus at the bottom of my road just before 11.30, but this is the price you pay with ticket splits and such like, they may be cheap but they aren’t especially direct or timely. But if your sole objective is a few beers and the football, it really doesn’t matter.

Curiosity settled, finally.
Positioned For A Quick Getaway

Monday, 10 July 2017

Wrong Shaped Balls

Rugby Borough  9  Clean Slate  0

Friendly

I can imagine that William Webb-Ellis was one of those really annoying schoolkids.

You are having a game of football with your mates and then without warning some clever little dick decides to pick up the ball and run off with it, and in the process of  brassing off all of his schoolmates,  the game of Rugby is suddenly invented.

Myth or legend that tale may well be, but young Webb-Ellis, while allegedly breaking all the rules in his days as a student at the Rugby School, is deemed to have been the man who created the game, and to that end he finished up having a World Cup named after him. Maybe not such a clever dick after all....?

And on a day when the elite British and Irish rugby players slugged it out for a stalemate with the sporting dynasty that is the All Blacks, it did seem wholly appropriate to the head to the town where it all started, but in this case, to watch the wrong shaped ball.

Rugby Town FC - The Orange Version
Football in Rugby is complicated, a bit like some of the rules in the oval ball game, and while you can have a basic grasp, to understand it properly you need to be part of it, or in the case of the football, you probably need to be from the town itself.

That said, I will try to summarise the story as best I can.

Rugby Town were historically the principal club in the town, up until 1973 when they ceased to play, which is very different to going out of business, I suppose the phrase you would use is that they were "In Abeyance" as a senior club. They reappeared in 1993, but disappeared again mid way through the 1995-96 season with their playing record expunged. Back they came again in 2000, but by 2004 they had once again vanished.

Across town VS Rugby (Valley Sports) were the junior of the clubs but following the demise of Town in 1973, they took on the mantle of the senior team and had success. The FA Vase was won in 1983 and the heady heights of the Southern League Premier Division were achieved. Along with that the Proper rounds of the F.A.Cup were reached on several occasions.

The club changed their name to Rugby United in 2000, much to the annoyance of the VS faithful, but then upon the demise of Rugby Town in 2004, the club that was United and formerly VS, decided to take on the name! Their time in the Premier Division came to an end, a move to the Northern Premier League followed, and then at the end of last season the club were relegated to Step 5 and the superb Butlin Road ground will host the lowest level of football it's witnessed since the early Eighties.

The Impressive Kilsby Lane
But, it complicates further still, because while the newly named Rugby Town play at Butlin Road, just further East is the Kilsby Lane ground of Rugby Town (Juniors) which looks like a completely separate club, and if anything is connected to the original incarnation of Town. So, we have two clubs called Rugby Town, or so it seems?

I guess while one was solely a junior organisation and one a senior club it was ok, but when the juniors want to branch into senior football then it's perhaps not quite so simple. Hence the recent birth of Rugby Borough Football Club.

Rugby Borough will be plying their trade in the Leicestershire Senior League this season, after initially looking like joining the Midland League. It was time to pay a somewhat curious visit to see what it was all about.

The entrance to the ground is through some gates adorned with Rugby Town in the colours of orange and black. You follow down a long driveway and as you arrive at the large car park, the facilities which are based on the very edge of town in a rural setting, open out in front of you. The single story club house and dressing rooms are modern and smart, while two pitches adorn the facility. A railed grass pitch that is used by AEI Rugby, and an artificial floodlit pitch that is to be Borough's home for the season.

They've been great with their use of social media, and of course the local written media has picked up on the story and run with it. Playing wise they do look to have assembled a very useful young squad that on first evidence will be a real handful at the level they'll be playing at. 4-0 up at half time against a willing but limited Clean Slate outfit from Milton Keynes, they ran out 9-0 winners. They looked very impressive.

The ground is very smart, the welcome friendly and a good number of interested onlookers had turned up to see the show. The club looked very well organised, professional in their approach, and forward thinking.

If I have stated any inaccuracies in the story of football in Rugby then I can only apologise for my ignorance and shoddy research, but as can be seen it isn't straightforward. However, from the basics of the story alone, it's clear that for a town of it's size, 'underachievement' is probably a word that wouldn't be deemed as overly harsh, certainly in recent years. While 'instability' might also be considered to be a fair word.

Maybe Rugby Borough can provide some of that stability and also some much needed success, but then again the supporters of VS Rugby (as many still call it) might have something to say about that.

William Webb-Ellis might also have had something to say about it, and it would probably be along the lines of sticking to the wrong shaped balls, it's much simpler.......

Rugby Town - Don't Ever Forget It



Monday, 3 July 2017

Taps & Tappers

Dodworth Miners Welfare  4  Worsbrough Bridge Athletic  0

Friendly

The Sheffield Tap seemed like the ideal location to ponder the start of the 2017-18 football season.

With racing at Doncaster the main event in South Yorkshire today, the inhabitants of the Tap were dressed to impress prior to catching the train to their destination. It was like ‘Love Island’ meets ‘Police – Camera – Action’, for some, today was extremely unlikely to end well, and we aren’t just talking financially…

As the bar emptied and the volume subsided, my thoughts turned to what the new season might hold. I’ve got some interesting journeys to plan for, South Shields, Scarborough and Llandudno to name but a few, while no doubt the air miles will be clocked up with trips to Ireland and Holland taking place before the turn of the year. Plus of course, let’s not forget the surprises, the unplanned, and at times, the downright ridiculous. It wouldn’t be the same without it.

Pure Miners Welfare
But right now it was all about pre-season, and that in itself can be a less than straightforward experience. I like to plan my July fixtures around some of the new grounds that are dropping onto the radar for the season ahead, but several factors need to be considered. Firstly, where are the games being played, and that issue knocked two potential games on the head today when it came to light that neither GNP Seniors or Beeston Rylands were playing at their ‘normal’ grounds. Then of course games can be cancelled at very short notice (ground not ready / one of the teams can’t raise a side).

Finally, and this is one to watch very carefully, the kick off time can move, and that is exactly what happened with Dodworth Miners Welfare. To their credit, the Twitter updates were really helpful, no doubts as to where the game was being played, but then a couple of days ago the scheduled 3pm kick off became a 1pm kick off.

I had always planned to go out on the train and have a few beers on the opening day, so it then meant a bit of careful planning to make sure two things could happen. Could I get to Dodworth for the game, but could I also arrive in time to sample a couple of lagers?

The 10am train from Belper meant I could make a connection in Derby and subsequently be in the Tap by 11am. I was taken aback somewhat as to how busy it was, but then I’d not considered the pony factor across the way. The Tap isn’t cheap, but it’s very good, and the Czech Lager went down a treat, in fact both of them did, I had just enough time to imbibe before the Huddersfield bound train arrived to take me to the final destination.

Vast Expanses - The Muck Stack In The Distance
Dodworth sits right at the side of the M1, to the West of Barnsley, and is in fact the next stop after leaving Barnsley Interchange. As a village of around 5,500 inhabitants, it’s growing in terms of its profile. Being as close as it is to the motorway network, a quantity of new housing has sprung up and in turn property prices have risen sharply. Commerce and Industry has taken root in the area formerly dominated by the mining industry, and as a result, Dodworth has become a village of choice, with many non-locals choosing to reside in the area.

But walking from the station into the centre of the village, it clearly still maintains its roots as a pit village. The Social Club and the Miners Welfare looked to be the only establishments open for a pint, and on the basis the football ground sat behind the Welfare, it seemed the natural choice to rest for a short while.

Sensibly priced beer, served in glass or plastic depending on your intentions, with a wonderfully warm welcome, the ‘Tappers’ as it’s known locally, was a busy venue, but time was tight, the game was due to get underway, and let’s not forget, that’s the real reason we are here today, right?

What a gem! The ground is a real blast from the past, a large covered area of terracing sat on the Welfare side built into a large natural bank. It’s the type of cover that can often been seen at Miners Welfare grounds, and I think about the likes of South Kirby, Kiveton Park, Bentley and Woolley. For a Step 8 (Step 9 last season), it’s a real cracker. The ground is railed on three sides, but its set into a vast expanse of grass, with plenty of room for a second pitch on the far side. Looking out on the far side the 'Muck Stack' is clearly visible, the former spoil heap from the mining days has now been landscaped and turned into a green haven.

A decent crowd gathered on a glorious day, including one or two from the travelling fraternity, some of whom had travelled huge distances (Southampton for one). I decided to sit on the grass bank with my plastic, and watch the new campaign begin in earnest.

Goals On Wheels
Dodworth were the better side throughout the game, taking the lead just before half time, and then scoring three more times in the second period against a much changed visiting team. I don’t read too much into pre-season results and performances, but suffice to say, despite being two divisions below the visitors, Dodworth looked like a side with confidence and no little ability. It could be a good season once again after gaining promotion at the end of the last campaign. Step 7 football would be befitting of the club and indeed the venue.

The final whistle arrived bang on ninety minutes and that gave me just enough time to make the connection back to Sheffield. I had time for one more in the Tap, it was very quiet for a Saturday afternoon, but then I guess it will be somewhat different when the trains return from Donny.


Football’s back, and what a great place to start.    

Action

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Abstainers

Greenalls Padgate St Oswalds  2  Crewe  1

Cheshire Football League - Premier Division

Imagine the scenario for one moment, you are the football team affiliated to a brewery, and as a result you ply your trade at their sports and social club. You progress, you make a few headlines, and then you are forced to disband because you don't drink enough!

Hard to believe isn't it? But that's the general gist of what happened to Tetley Walker Football Club. Tetley Walker Brewery was a significant employer in Warrington, and the football team that represented them at their Long Lane social facility was ambling along quite nicely in the local Warrington League.

The Facilities - With The Tetley Club To The Right
In 1994 they took the plunge and moved into the North West Counties League Second Division, where they lasted for seven seasons, finishing runners up once, and also both winning and finishing runners up the the Divisional Cup. The FA Vase also provided success with a run to the Fourth Round in 1997. Life was pretty good.

But, it all went wrong very quickly, Carlsberg Tetley Brewery (as they were now known) decided to stop them from playing at the ground, not because they didn't pay their way, but because they weren't using and contributing to the social facilities! In other words, they weren't buying the beer!

Tetley Walker Football Club folded, and what was effectively a Step 6 ground lay empty, but then along came another team to fill the void.

Padgate - But No Brewery, School Or Church To Be Seen
Greenalls Padgate St Oswalds FC is a bit of a mouthful. The Greenalls element is a link to another alcohol manufacturer in Warrington, Padgate is the area to the East of where the Tetleys Social Club lies, and St Oswalds is the name of a Catholic Church and School in the vicinity. So yes, we have a football club with a geographical base, linked to the church, a school and a brewery / distiller. I guess they don't want anyone to feel left out!

So then, competing in the Cheshire Football League are GPSO (much easier to type) and with games rapidly running out now, I decided to end my season with a visit, partly because I'd never been, but also out of curiosity in terms of what I was going to find when it came to the facilities.

Located on the North side of Warrington, not a million miles from the home of Warrington Wolves RLFC, the Tetley Social Club is on the A50 and upon arriving you soon get a feel for the size of the complex. It has a large car park, and the two leveled Social Club is a vast premise. Two funerals were taking place when I arrived and it was particularly busy, but still the public bar (members only - but no one asked) was open, and that was where I took up residence. The prices were very attractive as you would expect, and yes, they sold both Tetleys and Carlsberg.

Trees
Just prior to kick off I took a walk through the gate to the rear of the club, where the remnants of a pay booth stood. To the right of which was a small pavilion that contained dressing rooms, while next to this was a modest stand that was made up of a high roof structure over some concrete terracing. The pitch was railed and there was hard standing all around it. It would have been absolutely fine for the level Tetley Walker were at, given the period they were playing at that level, but to play a similar level of football on it now would require some work, but not a vast amount in my view. As a current Step 7 ground, this
was one of the better equipped.

The game itself had nothing on it, but you wouldn't have thought that from the way both teams went about it. The hosts took the initiative but Crewe always looked a dangerous outfit on the break. It was GPSO who took the lead thanks to a clear penalty, and then just before half time they netted again with a very close range header.

The game started to get a bit spiky with Crewe doing their best to get into the faces of the home side but to be fair both teams were kept in check thanks to an assured refereeing display. Crewe got a goal back early in the second half and looked to have the upper hand, but the GPSO back four stayed firm, and indeed it was the Warrington based side that looked likely to grab a third goal as Crewe pushed forward.

As the final whistle blew the curtain came down on the season for both clubs, and indeed for myself after a steady 152 games! I'm sure they were all probably planning to head for a well earned post match drink, and based on the history lesson, I've got a fairly good idea where they'd be going for it!

The Keeper Contemplates A Pint Of......





Sunday, 14 May 2017

Eagles & Wolves

Eagle Sports  0  Knutsford  0

Cheshire Football League - Premier Division

The town of Warrington has a population of over 200,000 people, which compares numerically with the likes of Swindon, Barnsley and Northampton.

Yet when it comes to football, it lags way behind town's of a similar size, plus many that are significantly smaller. A town the size of Warrington, with the best will in the World, you would expect to be the home of a professional football club. But alas not, despite ambitious plans going back years, only twelve months ago did Warrington Town finally made it to the seventh tier of English football, the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League.

That's What You Call A Clubhouse
And that, is pretty much as good as it gets, but why? You could argue that it's pretty simple really, it's the wrong shaped ball. Rugby League dominates in these parts, Warrington Wolves play in the Super League and they average around 12,000 punters through the turnstiles at their impressive Halliwell Jones Stadium in the heart of the town, but it's a Summer sport to be fair?

Warrington isn't alone though, in close proximity you have the town's of Widnes and St Helens, both of whom have their most senior football teams playing two, if not three levels below Warrington Town.

The conclusion you have to draw from this part of the North West is quite simply that football in it's round ball sense doesn't float the boats of the locals, they are much more in tune with the oval ball. Or are they?

Could it perhaps be that with United, City, Liverpool and Everton all being within close proximity of the three aforementioned town's, the football loving public are spoiled for choice and as a result head either East or West for their Premier League fix?

Clouds Over Warrington
It's hard to say, but what I do know is that when it comes to Warrington, after Town, it's a sizable fall down the pyramid before you can start to find football clubs in the locality. Most of them, well three to be precise, play in the Step 7 Cheshire Football League. Namely Greenalls Padgate St Oswalds, Rylands, and today's destination Eagle Sports.

The Eagle Sports & Social Club is located to the West of the town and is best accessed from the M62 rather than what at first glance of the map seems a quicker route via the town centre. Situated between the suburbs of Penketh and Great Sankey, it's not the easiest place to find, tucked in behind some modern housing. However, once into the car park, the sheer size of the venue itself comes as quite a surprise.

The main railed football pitch is the first piece of grass you come across, with the dressing rooms next to the car park, behind one of the goals. Adjacent is a rugby pitch, followed by another rugby pitch, yet to the rear of the social club is a bowling green. Space is certainly not at a premium.

The crowing glory though is the social club, it's a massive building with various bars and function rooms. It's as impressive a place as you will see at any level of football. Clearly though it isn't just about the football, it caters for all sports, Rugby League clearly being the key one, but it also serves the local community. Today they were taking advantage, a Wedding Reception and a kids football session were being well catered for.

The Dressing Rooms
Onto the football. Eagle Sports had a terrible start to the season, but after a change of Manager they steadied the ship and will finish in a very creditable mid-table position. Knutsford's season I've documented previously but the report at the end of the season, which for both sides was today, will state 'should do better'.

On a lovely Spring day, on a clearly well cared for, but hard playing surface, it was the hosts who spent the majority of the game on the front foot, carving out several chances but without being able to breach the visiting defence. Knutsford created a few openings but nothing especially clear cut of note.

While it finished 0-0, it was a game worthy of a goal or two. It certainly wasn't played like an end of season game, and on another day it could easily have been 3-1.

The game was watched by a moderate crowd of spectators, I would say around 30 or so. In the bar before the game, the television was showing the Castleford v St Helens Rugby League Challenge Cup tie, a lad in an Everton shirt had set up camp to watch it for the afternoon.

And therein lies the problem for football in Warrington......

That Clubhouse Again - It's A Bobby Dazzler!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Road To Lostock Gralam

Rudheath Social  2  Styal  3

Cheshire Football League – Premier Division

Tapas Night at the Slow & Easy sounds a real belter, the chef is called Jesus!

It was while I was stood taking advantage of the facilities that my eyes were taken by the poster on the wall of the pub on Manchester Road in Lostock Gralam, a venue that I frequented on more than one occasion back in the Summer of 1994.

Slow & Easy - From The Rear..........
I had just graduated from Keele University and for a very brief period I was acquainted with a girl who lived in Northwich, so as a result I spent quite a bit of time touring the highways, byways and public houses of the Vale Royal area.

Lach Dennis, Davenham, Cuddington, Delamere and Whitegate were all places that got a visit, but the Slow & Easy was one of the more popular venues, and it was while sat in the pub all of those years ago that I came up with one of my more bizarre post-student ideas.

“The Road To Lostock Gralam” – It was to be the first novel of my fledgling writing career. At that stage I had no idea what it would be about, but the name sounded good! Let’s be fair though, I was a pretentious young English graduate, and my concept of reality was akin to that of a schizophrenic on acid. It was never going to happen, and it didn’t.

That said, over the past 23 years, as I’ve passed Lostock Gralam on the way to either the homes of Witton Albion or Northwich Victoria, it always raises a smile, as does any random reference to the village, irrespective of the context.

Park Stadium - Home Of The 'Grey Lambs' (Get It?)
My road to Lostock Gralam in 2017 was a somewhat inadvertent one, it was an unfortunate set of political circumstances that lead to a re-visit to the Slow & Easy, and of course the football ground that sits right behind it.

Rudheath Social Football Club were only formed in 1993 and quickly rose from Sunday football into Saturday’s before they eventually worked their way up to the top flight of the Cheshire Football League. They played their home games at Griffiths Park, to the rear of the social club on Middlewich Road in Rudheath, but then the landlords imposed a significant increase in the rent, which meant the club were forced to find a new home, and that’s where Lostock Gralam FC came into the equation.

It’s not been the happiest of seasons for either Rudheath or tonight’s opponents Styal, and as a consequence tonight’s game was crucial. If Styal won, they would move to third from bottom, leaping over Rudheath, but then with Styal having finished their games, Rudheath would need a point from their remaining two games after tonight to escape the final relegation place.

In other words, Rudheath have still got an escape route, for Styal it was win or bust!

Seventies Gold
After a typically arduous journey up the M6, I finally pulled into the car park to the rear of the Slow & Easy. What I found was a lovely football ground in a really nice setting. A brand new Football Foundation funded changing facility sat in a corner while in contrast a small stand that looked to emanate from the seventies sat in the opposite corner. There wasn’t any hard standing but on one side were some grass mounds that provided an elevated viewing position. The ground is beautifully tree lined and clearly well looked after. On a glorious May evening it looked a real picture, the kind of place you would be happy to watch football at, well done to all at Lostock Gralam FC and Rudheath Social FC.

The game was an exciting one, the impressive Callum Whelan scored in the first half to give the fired up visitors the lead, and then the same player scored a cracking second goal just after half time when he fired home from distance.  Whelan scored his hat-trick goal with a well placed low shot from the edge of the box in the 60th minute and you felt at that stage the game was over, but clearly rattled Rudheath had other ideas.

Quick fire goals from Anthony Marshall and Steven Warburton meant that last twenty minutes were going to be tense. Styal had to dig deep and Rudheath began to get frustrated, this boiled over when substitute Sam Didsbury was dismissed for two yellow cards, both for dissent, inside 30 seconds of each other. He’d only been on the pitch seven minutes.

Styal held, on, survival is also on, but it is totally dependant on how Rudheath perform in games against Rylands and bottom placed Garswood. As I said, a point would be enough to get them out of it.

Perhaps next time Rudheath are on the road to Lostock Gralam, they should call into the pub and grab some tapas. A few words with the chef might lead to some divine intervention. I reckon there might be a book in that somewhere……..

Where Jesus Does Albondigas